EU’s Response to U.S. Spying: Anger versus Pragmatism

Written by | Monday, October 28th, 2013

It was widely expected that US spying allegations would dominate talks at the two-day European Union Summit in Brussels last week. And they did! EU leaders warned on Friday (25 October) that reports of widespread eavesdropping on world leaders by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) have raised “deep concerns” among Europeans and could have serious consequences for the cooperation needed for effective intelligence gathering.
And while German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed that “Once the seeds of mistrust have been sown it doesn’t facilitate our co-operation… it makes it more difficult…”, it is quite likely that, in the end, pragmatism will prevail over the outrage. As a matter of fact, France and Germany have already opted to talk with the Americans rather than preside over a rupture in transatlantic relations. However, these attempts at preventing a further deterioration in Europe’s perhaps most important (mainly economic and defense) relationship should not disguise a very real sense of betrayal in parts of Europe.
Chancellor Angela Merkel was clearly not placated by her phone call with President Obama. Though the U.S. President chosen his words very carefully, it is widely believed in Germany that one of the chancellor’s phones had been monitored in the past. So she and President Hollande met at the summit in Brussels and drew up a plan to seek to establish a common framework with the United States over intelligence-gathering by the end of the year. The EU leaders want a new set of rules with a “no spying pact” at the core. This would mirror a similar arrangement the U.S. has had with Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand since just after the World War II. It is unclear, however, where lines would be drawn and how enforceable any pact would be. By its very nature, spying works in the shadows and working out an agreement between Europe and the US will be difficult. In the meantime, the reputation of the U.S. in Europe has been damaged by these revelations.

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